Friday, April 17, 2009

The Rule of Law.

Yesterday the administration released a series of legal opinions authorizing "brutal interrogation techniques" employed by the Bush administration, also known to the rest of the civilized world as torture.  

Only thing worse than doing something criminal and illegal and getting away with it, is doing it under the protection of very labored legal language which basically reenterprets the law to justify the activity in question.  

Here's an example from one of the memos:

"As we explained in the Section 2340A Memorandum, "pain and suffering" as used in Section 2340 is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of "pain" as distinguished from "suffering"... The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view inflict "severe pain or suffering". Even if one were to parse the statute more finely to treat "suffering" as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe sufering. The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering."

There is absolutely nothing scarier than a government that takes it on itself to interpret the law to suit its needs.  And I think it will take minimal effort to prove that that is indeed what occurred and that someone essentially "ordered" these legal opinions.  However none of this can be achieved without proper investigation and prosecution.  If these people genuinely believe that they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to be afraid of.  So I hope the president is joking when he says "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past".  Huh?  Do we now believe that no crime should be prosecuted because it only amounts to "laying blame for the past"?  Where are we drawing the line?  

And no, I don't give a damn if we tortured for the right cause (not that we were ever shown any results of what torture has accomplished).  Any country can decide to justify whatever it wants on the grounds that it is protecting itself, yet I am sure that the US or the UN, would not particularly care.  This is such a crazy slippery slope and if we hope to have any sense of order in the world - and hope to have any say in what that order looks like - we can't arbitrarily decide how to interpret laws and which international treaties apply to us. 

And, as citizens in a democratic country, if we ever hope to live with the peace of mind that the government cannot arbitrarily act against us - will all the best intentions - it is in our best interest to see these activities be investigated and those who broke the law be prosecuted.  

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